Training During Pregnancy
This is an area that can prove a bit of a minefield of information. While pregnant, it is very much encouraged to exercise throughout the 9 months, if possible. What and how much to do will differ from person to person, a general rule of thumb would be to continue as normally as possible. For instance if you are a runner, keep running or if you do weight training, keep lifting. Although this is probably not the best time to start something completely new or attempt to ramp up the training volume!
During the early stages of pregnancy it is less about the physical limitations and more about managing the fatigue and nausea. A lot of the time you will need to judge this one for yourselves, on the bad days take a break or rest day but just make sure you fully utilise the good days. Set yourself mini-goals of say a 30 minute workout and take things from there, getting the blood flowing will help alleviate the nausea and hopefully boost energy levels for the rest of the day.
Things to focus on during this stage, while mobility is pretty unrestricted, focus on developing the muscles on the posterior chain (Hamstrings, Glutes, Lats). Pregnancy can severely effect your posture and balance, so its vital that you prepare for this and target that area. The Deadlift is an excellent movement to target all of the above, again the level at which you practice will be determined by what youhave done previously. If you have never done a Deadlift before, begin with a simple hip-hinge movement before attempting this with small dumbbells up to around 5kg. This could also prove good practice for lifting a little-one numerous times a day!
By this stage your energy levels should be on their way back and you should be past the worst of the nausea, so not the time to head for the couch and put your feet up just yet. At this point you can still do most of the work you’ve been doing, but it would be wise to begin managing your exertion levels, the heart is not only supplying you with oxygenated blood, but the baby too. You can do this by applying the ‘talk test’, simply asses your exertion levels based on whether or not you can hold a conversation.
There are a couple of things you will need to consider at this stage, after 3 months your body will begin to produce more of the hormone relaxin, which will loosen your joints, so it as advised to avoid explosive movements or impact activities such as squat jumps or boxing, as the risk of dislocation and injury is elevated. It is also worth remembering that relaxin levels are elevated for up to 6 months post-birth, so would be advised to avoid these during the post-natal period as well. The next consideration at this point is to limit any exercises in the supine position (lying on your back) as this could potentially compress one of the main veins returning blood to your heart due to the increased weight of the enlarged womb.
Things to focus on at this stage would be maintaining that core strength, which could prove more challenging having removed a lot of crunch movements. However the king of core exercises if still on the cards. The plank is a very simple and effective movement for strengthening this entire region.
You have made it this far without cancelling the gym membership, so theres no reason to stop now. Giving birth is a physically demanding task, so it is important that you maintain your fitness and strength levels. Things as simple as power walks, yoga or static bikes can be very effective as keeping you active at this stage which can help maintain effective circulation and blood flow. This can assist in reducing any swelling as we’ll as maintaining the health of both you and your baby.
At this point it would be wise to begin managing your training load, perhaps a slight reduction of session time or frequency. You will also start to feel a lot more limited physically, as your bump will alter your centre of gravity and challenge your balance, for this reason you could consider lowering the weight for some of the free weights movements which may challenge your balance. It would be advised to avoid any overhead weights movements (such as an overhead press) as it may result in increased arching of the lower back.
Things to do at this stage would be to continue as best you can, even if that means simplifying some movements so allow for the reduction of mobility or balance. You could consider moving onto a supported squat movements by using a TRX, if available, or even just using a wall or a chair for added balance support.
Some useful things to consider throughout would be investing in a good quality support bra, as the breasts increase in size this could potentially cause some serious discomfort, it can also help to prevent the breast tissue from over stretching. The final and possibly most important thing to do throughout would be pelvic floor exercises. These exercises can help maintain strength in the pelvic floor throughout the pregnancy, which will help when it comes to giving birth. It is also important to keep these exercises included in the post-natal period which can improve abdominal recovery and reduce swelling in the stomach.
Remember, pregnancy shouldn’t be a reason to completely neglect your heath and fitness goals. So long as you adopt a sensible approach and know your own limitations, you should be able to maintain a good training structure right up until very close to birth.